5 Free Ways to Help Soothe Bloating from Eating Too Much

These tips can help you beat the uncomfortable symptoms of overdoing it.

Welcome to Thrifty. A weekly column where nutrition editor and registered dietitian Jessica Ball keeps it real on how to grocery shop on a budget, make healthy meals for one or two, and make Earth-friendly choices without overhauling your entire life.

The holidays are the most wonderful time of year. They're usually packed with delicious celebrating and festive meals, which may leave you feeling out of your regular routine. Celebratory gatherings can make it easy to eat too much, and hindsight is 20/20 (trust me, I'm in the same boat). Some bloating is totally normal and healthy, but sometimes it can be uncomfortable and not make you feel your best.

Luckily, you don't need an expensive supplement, drink or powder to "cleanse" yourself (PSA: if you have a functioning liver and kidneys, your body does this naturally). But it is still possible to ease the uncomfortable symptoms. In fact, there are plenty of ways to help relieve bloating that don't cost hardly anything. Here are five free (or mostly free) ways to soothe bloating after eating too much.

a woman smiling and having a glass of water
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1. Drink Water

Food needs water to be digested. Very simply put: the more food we have, the more water we need for digestion. Foods high in protein and sodium, like many holiday favorites including ham and turkey, need even more water to be digested than other lower-sodium and lower-protein foods, per a 2018 publication in Nutrients. Water can also help organs like your kidneys flush out toxins from things like, say, too much alcohol or high-added-sugar foods. While it may seem counterintuitive to ingest more when you're stomach isn't feeling so great, water can help get things moving and can help you feel your best (it can also help you go #2, which also helps the cause).

2. Go for a Walk

It might be cold outside, but it's worth it to bundle up and take a stroll around the neighborhood. Regular movement, especially aerobic exercise such as walking, cycling or swimming, is the best activity to help you stay regular. And because walking is pretty gentle, it's a nice option when you're not feeling your best. Plus, even walking for just two minutes may help lower blood sugar levels (which tend to spike after overeating and eating lots of added sugar) and help boost your energy levels and mood. As with any form of exercise, think of it as appreciating what your body can do, rather than a punishment for the food you've eaten.

3. Focus on Produce

Even if your last meal (or last few meals) were bigger than usual, you still need to eat throughout the day. Especially if you're feeling bloated, it's a good time to focus on nourishing foods that are light, refreshing and packed with water like vegetables and fruits. Get creative with what you already have in your fridge, freezer and pantry. This can help you use any leftover produce from the holidays while saving money on groceries and reducing food waste.

4. Lay on Your Side

Always wait at least two hours after eating before laying down to help avoid reflux, as laying down makes it easier for stomach acids to travel into the esophagus. But if you're well past your last meal and still feeling bloated, laying or sleeping on your left side may actually help. This is because laying in this way may help reduce pressure on your lower esophageal sphincter, reducing the amount of food or acid that can travel back into the esophagus. While this may help, research is limited and most evidence is anecdotal. That said, there is likely little harm in trying it.

5. Abdominal Massage

While it may feel a little bit out there, there is some research on the benefits of abdominal massage for bloating and constipation relief. A 2022 study published in Complementary Therapies in Medicine reviewed 107 research reports and concluded that abdominal massage is a safe and effective form of therapy for several digestive issues. This could be because massaging quite literally helps get things moving in your intestines. Food moves through the digestive tract because of wave-like smooth muscle contractions of the intestines called peristalsis. A gentle stomach massage may help mimic this motion and help food move through for digestion.

The University of Michigan's guide on abdominal self massage recommends starting on the right side of your stomach by your right hip bone, working up to your right rib cage, then across to the left side and down to your left hip bone, moving slowly and gently in a clockwise motion for two to three minutes. However, always consult your doctor and healthcare team before trying a new home remedy. Also, abdominal massage is not recommended for those who are pregnant.

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